Lily James, New Face of My Burberry Black, Talks Scent Memories and Power Dressing

Lily James My Burberry Black - H 2016
Mario Testino/Burberry

Lily James My Burberry Black - H 2016

The former 'Downton Abbey' lady gives her roles signature fragrances: "It helps me step into the skin of another character."

Actress Lily James has graced silver screens and TV screens around the world in her roles as Cinderella, Lady Rose MacClare on Downton Abbey and in the miniseries War & Peace, among others, but her visage is about to be even more widespread. The Brit has signed on to be the new face of My Burberry fragrances — following in the footsteps of Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne — her first-ever global advertising campaign.

The global launch of the sexy new My Burberry Black fragrance — inspired by the heritage label’s black trench coat and created by legendary perfumer Francis Kurkdjian — was her first assignment, and it meant working with Mario Testino, which she says was "brilliant." Adds James, "He just has so much energy. He’s like this force and he makes you feel so confident and relaxed. He wants you to be you and he knows exactly how to capture the best from you — he brings out your confidence."

The shoot required nudity, which the actress says she tackled the same way she prepares for any role. [I] "always warm up for a performance by doing yoga-type moves and occasionally going on an exercise bike," James tells Pret-a-Reporter. "I think I was in a good place fitness-wise when we shot the ad, and other than that I just sort of didn’t over think it to be honest."

It seems the decision to front a fragrance campaign was a natural one for James, who says she’s always loved scents and wears perfume every day. "There are a lot of fragrances that remind me of my childhood, like lavender — my granny always used to put lavender sheets in her clothes drawers. And of course the smells of bonfire nights and Christmas mulled wine — they instantly make you feel like you’re 7 years old again," she says.

In fact, James has a signature scent for each of her roles: "It helps me step into the skin of another character. Even after you’ve finished with the role, you spritz on the perfume again and you’re stepping back into the shoes of the character." When she played Juliet onstage in London, she wore My Burberry Eau de Toilette, and for Lady Rose she opted for a rose fragrance.

Since, James has chosen My Burberry Black — which features notes of jasmine, candied rose and amber patchouli — as her personal signature, fortunately her boyfriend (English actor Matt Smith) is a fan. "I’m totally in love with it," she says. "It’s got the intense sort of sensual feel and evokes confidence."

It’s also part of her recipe for feeling powerful. "For a special occasion, I think a heel helps. I like to dress to accentuate my curves and that makes me feel sexy and powerful." Her best beauty tip? "When I was young I used to over-pluck my eyebrows. Now aside from makeup artists tweezing a few strays I leave them alone and it has made a huge difference!"

James will attend the British house’s runway show on Sept. 19, and surely spot more swag to add to her fashion wish list, which currently includes a "nice, new cashmere scarf and more long dresses with interesting prints."

Surprisingly, she failed to snag anything from the set of Downton when she left the show. Still, she says, "I miss the castle. I even miss the dining room, even though we would be going insane filming those scenes that would take, like, two days to shoot. I miss the big hallway and staircase and the light from the big window."

She did take away "loads of photos," however, and Rose’s signature scent. Says James, "Whenever I wear that I am transported back."

Photos courtesy of Mario Testino/Burberry